If you are planning a road trip for a quaint and cozy getaway, there are plenty of things to do in Hickory, NC! Stick with us and we will let you in on all of the wonderful nuggets this small town has to offer.
If you are like us and take road trips in, around, or through western North Carolina, you may have seen the exit signs for Hickory, and not thought twice about it. We have crossed over Lake Hickory while driving past the city turnoffs, but again, no real thought into what fun things Hickory may offer.
As North Carolinians, we know that Hickory furniture is something that our parents and grandparents coveted. We did not know much about Hickory’s history, except that it is the home of quality furniture.
Where is Hickory, NC?
Hickory is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Catawba County, North Carolina. The last stat we saw put the population of Hickory around 40,000 people. The downtown area is just a few miles from the highway exit. Downtown is set up much like a park and is very appealing. It is walker-friendly, pet-friendly, and bike-friendly.
If you are not close enough for a road trip, you can always fly into one of the nearby airports, Charlotte-Douglas International Airport or Piedmont Triad International Airport. The local airport, Hickory Regional Airport does not offer commercial flights.
What is Hickory known for?
You should have a little bit of Hickory history as you maneuver through the town. As mentioned earlier, Hickory is first, known for its furniture. It is home to the oldest furniture manufacturing company in the United States.
You can visit Hickory Furniture Mart if owning a piece of furniture from Hickory is your goal. Hickory Furniture Mart is a stop for many tourists, including international visitors.
Hickory is also known for its speedway and race cars, similar to North Carolina in general. You can check the schedule for Hickory Motor Speedway to watch a race if that is your thing.
Hickory is also home to a minor-league baseball team, the Hickory Crawdads. The Hickory Crawdads baseball team is an affiliate of the Texas Rangers.
Reader’s Digest ranked Hickory in the top ten places to live and raise a family. Once you visit, it will be evident why Reader’s Digest chose this town for such an honor.
Where to Stay
Let’s talk about options for accommodations. First, we love visiting a location where we can park the car and peruse a town on foot. It is the best way to take in as much as you can in a short period of time. You see so much more when you are walking around a location than you do via car. Plus, you will be reducing your carbon footprint.
When searching for a place to stay, you definitely want to navigate your center point in or around the downtown area. Downtown Hickory is THE place to be!
We stayed at the 2nd Street Inn, which is within walking distance to downtown, Union Square, and many great restaurants, shops, and local faves! Its 2nd Street address makes it amazingly convenient to the hot spots of Hickory.
2nd Street Inn’s tagline is “Rest Redefined” and we could not agree more! The historic building was renovated into the gorgeous boutique inn that it is today. It offers 14 suites that are suited to the modern traveler, yet the exposed brick, industrial aesthetic, and originality of the building may appeal to most history buffs.
Check out our Hickory Instagram highlight for video footage of our room at the 2nd Street Inn.
There are other options such as the Sweet Tea Bed & Breakfast nearby.
Things to Do in Hickory, NC
While we have given you examples of some of the activities Hickory offers, we want to nail down some of our faves.
Opting to spend a weekend in Hickory is by far, one of the best decisions we have made in regard to a road trip! Since we recommend you travel to this charming town, we have put together the top things to do in Hickory, NC!
The Hickory Farmers Market
We adore a farmers market in any city/town that we visit. There is no better way to experience the local culture and offerings than a farmers market. On Saturday morning of our weekend in Hickory, we made the downtown market a priority of our things to do in Hickory, NC.
The downtown Hickory farmers market has something for everyone. There are traditional seasonal produce vendors, as well as soaps, candles, dog treats, and even local art. Be sure to stroll through the farmers market, then sit for a spell in one of the rocking chairs in Union Square and people-watch. This is where we also planned some of the other things to do while in Hickory, NC.
If you enjoy hiking and walking, there is a walking trail called, The Hickory Trail. The walking trail is made up of the City Walk, Riverwalk, Aviation Walk, Historic Ridgeview Walk, and OLLE Art Walk. We used the City Walk for most of our time in Hickory.
You can also hike at Bakers Mountain Park. The trail at Bakers Mountain is nearly 6 miles of easy to advanced trails. The trail is used as a training trail for those who have the goal of hiking the Appalachian Trail. The 6-mile trek is worth it though. The reward is a gazebo that serves as an observation platform where you can take in amazing views of the Catawba Valley.
If you are visiting in the fall, be sure to check out Red Wolf Farm. The farm has a pumpkin patch, corn maze, and some farm animals you can interact with. Even if it isn’t in the fall, be sure to check them out. Depending on the time of year, they host many seasonal events.
One of our favorite things to do when traveling is experiencing the food and beverages. We cannot have a list of things to do in Hickory without talking about consumables!
Start your day at Taste Full Beans. Not only do they offer the most coffee and tea options that we have ever seen, but the cafe is adorable. If you are a plant lover, get ready! The front dining area has the most beautiful display of plant varieties. The light from 2nd Street NW is suitable for these lush babies.
The food at Taste Full Beans is just as mouthwatering as the beverages. We opted for egg and cheese on a warm croissant, coupled with a side of apples. These aren’t just any side of apples. They are chopped, seasoned with cinnamon, and are the best breakfast side we have ever had.
Another great breakfast option is Notions. Just around the corner from Taste Full Beans, in Union Square, Notions offers indoor and outdoor dining. Do yourself a favor and opt for outdoor seating. Even if it is chilly, do it. They have heaters that will warm you up quickly.
Dine on various brunch options like an acai bowl, eggs, french toast, and more. Grits are a must! They are so yummy!
Be sure to order the bottomless mimosa! You can have your choice of fruit juice, not just orange.
Local Beer & Wine in Hickory
Beer is plentifully available! On our first night, we indulged in a few local beers at Olde Hickory Taproom. We were then hooked! They have a ton of options, including Key Lime Meringue and Peaches à la Mode beer that will have you wishing it was summer again.
Speaking of beer and Olde Hickory, the beer originates from Olde Hickory Brewery. Olde Hickory Brewery is situated downtown in an 1880 Historic building. They make all of their beers in this building, and you can find it in almost any restaurant/bar in town. We love how the town supports each other!
Olde Hickory Station, in Union Square across the railroad tracks, offers a restaurant, and a market where you can order food and wine and take it away if you’d like. We grabbed a bottle of wine and took it back to the 2nd Street Inn one evening to enjoy! If you are dining at Olde Hickory Station, be sure to ask for the Island of Cheese. You’re welcome!
Did we say vino? Yes! Be sure to have a glass (or three) of wine at Hickory Wine Shoppe. They also have wine slushies that are to die for!
The Perfect Progressive Dinner
We took part in a progressive dinner event with the Hickory Metro Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. It was the perfect evening, so we wanted to share it with you as a suggestion for one of the best things to do in Hickory, NC.
First, go for cocktails at Charolais Steakhouse on 4th street. Their bar has handcrafted cocktails that will blow you away. While you are there, take a stroll over to their wine cellar. Be sure to ask the bartender about their process for keeping high-quality wines affordable by the glass. Mind-blowing!
Your next stop will be Mas Amor Cantina for the most delish tex-mex fare! This place is Instagram-heaven! The decor is super chic, with neon signs just begging to be included in a photo opp. You won’t be disappointed by anything on the menu. Everything is made with fresh ingredients.
Be sure to ask for a tequila flight that you may or may not share. Just don’t plan to drive after your indulgence! Lastly, check out the roof area view and grab a photo at sunset.
Your last stop on the progressive dinner should be for dessert at Cafe Rule and Wine Bar. They have a beautiful lanai area that allows for a natural, garden-like aesthetic. Try a few desserts because we cannot decide which is the best: Pumpkin Cheesecake, S’Mores Cast Iron Cookie, or their homemade ice cream!
Get Nostalgic in Hickory
If historic adventures are your thing, you cannot miss a couple of places.
Henry River Mill Village is located near the Henry Fork River on Henry River Road. It was most recently the home of District 12 in the Hunger Games. Back in the early 1900s, the Mill served as a cotton yarn manufacturer. You can even stay in one (of two units) of the refurbished mill houses overnight.
Hart Square Village is just a short drive from Hickory, in Vale, NC. We took the drive to see the changing leaves on the way. Hart Square is home to the nation’s largest collection of historic log structures, aka, log cabins/buildings.
If you are visiting in October, like we did, be sure to plan a trip during the Annual Living History festival. At this event, you can learn what pioneer life in North Carolina was like in the 1800s.
If museums are your thing, well, get ready because Hickory has plenty of those, too. The Hickory Museum of Art has a permanent collection of 19th to 21st-century American art and offers classes and exhibitions.
The Hickory Aviation Museum, located at the Hickory Regional Airport, in the former airport terminal, displays artifacts, an aircraft hangar with a plane, and outdoor exhibits. If you are an aviation buff, this is for you!
The Catawba Science Center is great for adults and children. It has a planetarium, aquarium, and a naturalist center. If you are ever on a quiz show and they ask if there are sharks in Hickory, the answer is a resounding, YES!
Adventures in Hickory
In addition to the many adventures we have already listed, there are other adventures that are a little more adventurous.
Beanstalk Ziplines is a great place to feed your adventurous spirit! Located a short drive away in Morganton, Beanstalk Zip Lines offers suspension bridges, tree climbs, quick jumps, and of course, zip-lining.
Shopping in Hickory
If you are a follower of this blog, you know that we are not big on shopping. We like to enjoy our travel via experiences and adventures. If you are wondering if there are shopping options in Hickory, the answer is yes. There are several locally owned boutiques and shops downtown and in the surrounding areas of Hickory. Shopping at locally owned shops help to support the economy. We believe you get extra karma points by supporting small business!
Whether you are in North Carolina, a bordering state, or anywhere in the world and are looking for a unique and charming getaway, we highly recommend Hickory, North Carolina. As you can see, there are tons of things to do in Hickory- something is available for everyone.
We recommend going for at least a weekend, maybe a long weekend. We felt our weekend was too short and wished that we had booked a few extra days. Once you have gotten a taste of Hickory, North Carolina, you will be planning your return trip!
It is about 53 miles from Hickory to Grandfather Mountain. It is totally worth the drive to experience all that Grandfather Mountain has to offer.
In addition to Grandfather Mountain, we recommend Blowing Rock, Asheville (including Biltmore Estate, and a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Charlotte is the closest large city. If you have never visited, uptown Charlotte can be a lot of fun!
You can enjoy an alcoholic beverage on the streets and sidewalks of the social district in downtown Hickory from 10 am-10 pm. Check local laws to make sure they have not changed prior to partaking.